Food poisoning: How to avoid diseases transmitted through food and water

Food poisoning
Food poisoning can be caused by germs present in our hands or kitchen utensils. Photo Credit: Motortion Films/

Food poisoning is a topic that is getting discussed these days. What is food poisoning? When you consume some form of food or water that is polluted or contaminated, and you fall ill then it is food poisoning.

What are the symptoms of food poisoning?

The main symptoms are vomiting, diarrhea, fever and nausea. But sometimes certain symptoms can turn fatal as well.

What are the reasons behind it?

Pathogens: Can be caused by bacteria (E. coli, Shigella, Salmonella, etc.), viruses (novo virus), fungi, toxins and parasites. Foods that contain toxins produced by germs can cause poisoning. Foods contaminated with certain bacteria, such as Staphylococcus aureus, may contain toxins. Symptoms begin within two to three hours of eating. These toxins wouldn't be destroyed by heating the food. While some other germs produce toxins after entering the gut (e.g. Shigella).

In addition, it can be caused by toxins in food, for example, mercury, lead, and pesticides.

Apart from food poisoning, there are many diseases that can be transmitted through food and water. These include diarrhea, cholera, typhoid, jaundice caused by certain viruses, diarrhea caused by the amoeba, and worm infestations.

Things to consider before you consume food

The basic precautions are known as 4 C (Clean, Cross-contamination prevention, Cook, Chill) and are generally considered to be important to prevent food poisoning. It's easy to remember. Only four words after all. While eating out, there is less risk if you opt for a hygienic and safe place.


Clean hands, clean surfaces and surroundings, and clean food are three important things. Hotel kitchens should be kept so clean that even customers will be able to see and approve.

The personal hygiene of those who handle food is important

» Wash hands

» Cut your nails and keep them clean

» When you are cooking, avoid smoking

» When you are ill (cold, cough, diarrhea, jaundice, typhoid) keep away from cooking. That will help in controlling the spread.

» If you have sores on your hands, apply a good bandage/glove.

When to wash your hands with soap

» Before and after you make food.

» Before you use or cook any kind of food

» After using the loo

» After throwing garbage

» After blowing your nose, toying with your hair, if you sneeze or cough on your hands, dig your ears or smoke.

When you wash your hands, make sure you take your time. The surface of the kitchen where the food is prepared should be clean. Wash utensils, cutting boards and countertops in warm soapy water after cooking. Wash fruits and vegetables under running water. After handling uncooked meat, poultry, fish and other raw foods, it is important to wash hands, dishes and surfaces thoroughly before coming in contact with other foods. This is especially important before touching cooked and ready-to-eat foods.

Use the right materials for cleaning which are designed to dissolve detergent liquids, grease, oil and dirt. Disinfectants such as bleach are designed to kill germs. To remove grease and dirt, it is always advisable to clean the surfaces first with detergent and then apply disinfectant to destroy any remaining germs. These should not be used indiscriminately. Follow the instructions exactly.

Use special buckets and clothes to clean the floor. If the wipes or sponges are used multiple times, rinse with warm water and soap, then place a suitable disinfectant, rinse well and allow to dry.


In general, most of the foods that are popular in our country need to be cooked until the right temperature is reached to ensure safety. This type of food is safely cooked when the internal temperature is high enough to kill the germs that cause the disease. Make sure your meat, especially sausages and burgers, are properly cooked at least twice. Generally, they should not be in the center of the skin. (Don't forget that there are exceptions to this, such as steaks, which are not very common in the country). When pierced with a knife, the juice flowing from the flesh should be clear without mixing with the blood. It is wise to cook the fish with a fork until the meat is easily peeled. The transparency of the meat should have been completely lost.

The fact is that the colour of the food and the visibility of the food is not enough to know if it has been cooked safely. Although practically difficult, the only way to ensure that food is cooked at a safe indoor temperature is to use a food thermometer.

For example, whole cuts of beef, goat and fish should be cooked at 145 ° F and chicken at 165 F.

Make sure to heat the food before serving. Avoid cooking food much before time. Once the food is cooked, keep a lid on them and keep it warm. Keep the food out of reach of insects and other creatures.

Cross-contamination prevention

Food poisoning can be caused by germs present in our hands or kitchen utensils. Always keep raw foods separate from cooked and ready-to-eat foods. Avoid ready-to-eat foods, especially salads, bread and sandwiches, also raw meat, fish, poultry and other raw foods. Always clean the plate before piling it up with cooked food. Especially if you have put raw food on it.

Always use special chopping boards for raw and cooked foods. Wash hands after handling raw foods. Keep raw meats, poultry, fish, etc in an airtight container when you store it in the freezer. If raw foods are kept in the bottom of the fridge, they might leak into the cooked food.


Once the food is lukewarm, store it in a fridge. Avoid keeping food in a room with a lukewarm temperature for a long period of time. At the most you can keep it outside for two hours, but after that always keep it inside a fridge. If food comes in contact with temperatures above 90 F (e.g. put in a car in hot weather), it is safe to refrigerate within 1 hour.

If you leave it at room temperature, or in the "danger zone" between 40 F and 140 F, the bacteria will multiply rapidly in the food. With the addition of food, temperature and humidity, the germs will multiply over time.

The temperature in the refrigerator should be below 40 F and the freezer should be below 0 ˚ F or below. Do not allow to thaw frozen food above the counter before using. Bacteria multiply rapidly in parts of the food that reach room temperature. For this, put the frozen food in a plastic bag and soak it in cold water. Change the water every 30 minutes until the food melts. Or you can do this with the microwave. It is important to cook thawed food immediately. Keeping partially heated meat at room temperature is like spreading a carpet of germs.

If you are planning to use leftovers, make sure to take out only the required amount each time to avoid putting it back in the freezer. Preheat oven to 74 C (165 F) to ensure the required safety each time. Do not hesitate to refrigerate for more than 2-3 days.

When it comes to meat and vegetables, make sure you buy from clean and reliable places. When buying do check the expiry dates and storage details of the product. Never buy any food item that looks strange. For instance don’t think twice before throwing away food items that have expired, inflated canned tins, fungus-infected bread and cheese, soiled meat, fish or milk. Always empty garbage bins regularly. Or else they will be frequented by insects and other creatures.

During summer we all love to drink iced juice. Make sure the water you are using to make ice is filtered or boiled. Never remove ice with your hands. Never put big ice cubes on the floor or sit on ice slabs.

While travelling always carry filtered drinking water. During feasts make sure to eat only cooked food (for instance have biryani but avoid the raita salad). Or avoid drinking water and only have bottled water. Most often they served a blend of boiled and normal drinking water at hotels.

Avoid using ice. They might be making ice with the waste/unfiltered water. Always try hotels that are popular and familiar.

Avoid dairy products. Boiled milk is safe. But ice creams, fruit salads and milkshakes might not be that safe. It would be advisable to refuse the welcome drink you get at functions. During weddings, we often forget to wash our hands.

It is common to invite a lot of people to family functions and weddings. But we should do a thorough quality check on the food we serve them. The same rule applies to celebrations and festivals. Even if you are planning to hand over the catering to an agency, you need to make sure such hygiene quality checks are done. The ones making and eating food should be equally cautious.

These are essential food safety measures to be followed by all food retailers. This would not be possible without the co-operation of restaurants and authorities in educating and training their staff, constantly monitoring and ensuring the quality of services and food items. Hotel workers need to be made aware of these issues. Periodic inspections are required to ensure compliance with these requirements and to revoke the licenses of non-compliant establishments.

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